This Valentine’s Day, find out how charities are using tech to combat loneliness.
Other than Christmas, there’s nothing more frightful for singletons than Valentine’s Day. Being lonely for some is more than just occasional – in fact, loneliness is bad for your health. According to the Campaign to End Loneliness, the negative feeling is equivalent to smoking 15 cigarettes; it also increases your chance of death by 29%. Loneliness is also pervasive. In a study by the Co-op and the British Red Cross, researchers found that loneliness affects 9 million people in the UK. The problem is big.
Charities both large and small have been tackling the challenge through innovative, digital means. Technologies have focused on providing emotional support by reducing the distance between people. Here we reveal some of the most successful ways charities are using digital to reduce loneliness, and how there are opportunities to push further.
Small charity funded tech start-ups are developing new tools
Like many business sectors, charities are investing in technology to better serve their supporters and users. Funded by the Norwegian Cancer Society, St Olav’s Hospital, and corporate partners, tech start-up No Isolation has been developing digital tools to end loneliness. Their digital strategy is to build on communication tools to connect with those who feel isolated.
AV1 is a small robot which can take the place of someone who is ‘missing’. For children who are too ill to attend, the small robot can sit in the classroom, with the child at the other end of an internet connection ‘attending’ class. The robot is already being trialed at schools in the UK to help improve loneliness and isolation from long-term illness.
Opportunities for charities to invest in digital tech
What’s important here is that charities can not only invest in tech startups to change the way they deliver services to users, but also, use it. The AV1 robot has the potential to digitally transform how people connect socially. The live streaming technology could be used in so many other contexts – for older people missing out on family events; for those too ill to participate in fundraising events; and the list could go on. The chance for charity digital leaders to develop new digital outreach programmes with AV1’s technology is high.
Age-UK fights loneliness through digital transformation
Well-known charity Age-UK is also at the forefront of fighting loneliness. The charity’s digital transformation has included work on its online journey and improved efficiency of the Call-in-Time service. Using digital transformation expert Webcredible, the charity changed the call service from a manual, labour-intensive matching process to a digital link. The new process allowed for users and partners to hold more regular conversations to combat loneliness. With digital transformation programmes, charities large and small can benefit from improved operational processes.
Chatbots can help charities deliver advice, coping strategies and therapy
Chatbots are also another area which charities can use to combat loneliness, anxiety, and stress. Three chatbots are recommended by charity digital leader Mind:
For charity digital leaders, not only can chatbots be an impactful way to reach out to users and supporters, but making these resources available to employees can help improve digital culture and mental health.
Voice assistants fill up the room
Abbeyfield, a charitable care home for the elderly recently experimented with voice assistants. Working with Greenwood Campbell a tech company for internal and external improvements, the charity piloted Alexa-like voice assistants in individual rooms. The results have been remarkable – those in the home recalled that prior to the installation of the assistant, they had not spoken to anyone for days. Looking at Abbeyfield, charities can use voice assistants to improve user services.
Charities hone on social media to combat loneliness
Samaritans, the suicide prevention charity helps connect those feeling alone with support. Helping to start local grassroots movements, #BrewMonday was launched. The charity encouraged supporters to hold their own events, offering the downloadable pack for local event organisers. Local efforts have been featured on Twitter, and Instagram, with all the hallmarks of a campaign about to go viral.
As we’ve seen with other charity movements, showcasing local action on social media has been a successful way of heightening visibility.